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vs. MATER DEI

Knights Halted on One-Way Street

November 28, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — Notre Dame High received its real introduction to Southern Section Division I football Friday night.

Oh, the Knights played Loyola and Bishop Amat earlier this season, but not until their 30-3 drubbing at the hands of Mater Dei at Valley College did they fully understand the challenge of competing in the section's most powerful division.

"This is like playing a junior college team," a Notre Dame parent complained.

With three Division I titles this decade, Mater Dei (11-1) is Orange County's most feared team.

The Monarchs didn't give the Knights (10-2) any chance to think upset. Notre Dame couldn't run, couldn't pass and wouldn't have scored except for Christian Thomsen's 24-yard field goal on the last play of the second quarter.

"They're pretty good," Coach Kevin Rooney of Notre Dame said. "We couldn't get anything going offensively. They beat us at the line of scrimmage."

Notre Dame didn't want to play in Division I this season. The Knights, however, boldly took on their task and exceeded expectations with an upset victory over Loyola and a second-place finish in the Del Rey League.

They are hoping to return to Division III next fall, and if that happens, they could become instant title contenders considering how many quality juniors are on the roster.

Eight starters on the defense are juniors, none better than 6-foot-4, 270-pound tackle Travis Johnson, who recorded three sacks against Mater Dei, giving him 18 this season. He earned so much respect, Mater Dei coaches were coming up to shake hands with him afterward.

"They're a great football team, but we didn't play Notre Dame football," Johnson said. "I think we should have beaten them. We were intimidated in the first half. We came out like scared cats. They could have been the Denver Broncos, but there's no excuse the way we played."

Johnson and defensive end Alec Moss, who had two sacks, lead a junior class that ranks among the best in the region. Add defensive backs Matt Lutz, Daniel Browne and Jonathon Brewster, and linebackers Mike Barron and Patrick Wade, and the Knights can't wait for a new season.

"It's going to be the storm defense," Johnson vowed. "The class of 2000 is going to run the defense."

*

Long night: Notre Dame's quarterbacks, Seth Oseransky and Brewster, struggled throughout.

Oseransky completed seven of 19 passes for 74 yards and was sacked three times in the second half. Brewster was two of six for 11 yards.

*

Tough line: Every Notre Dame starting offensive lineman was under 6 feet tall. Yet the Knights won 10 of 12 games this season.

"This is the perfect example size isn't the most important thing," assistant coach Jeff Kraemer said. "It's strength, it's intensity, it's about getting off the ball. It's desire."

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